Malta's first master plan for Valletta
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Malta's first master plan for Valletta

Lecture by historian Stephen Spiteri will explain 17th century context

Details about Malta’s first master plan for the Valletta area will be laid bare at the Notre Dame Gate in Vittoriosa this weekend where Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna is hosting its second Heritage and History Fair.

Giving a lecture from the most monumental part of the Cottonera lines, historian Stephen Spiteri will speak of how the master plan came about after the fall of the Venetian fortress of Candia to the Ottoman Turks in 1669.

The knights feared that the surrender of this easternmost Christian outpost on Crete put Malta next in line for an Ottoman attack. So Grand Master Nicolas Cotoner, anxious to ensure the island could withstand the perceived threat, embarked on what would prove to be one of the most ambitious fortifications project.

Italian military engineer Antonio Maurizio Valperga drafted a master plan that included an extensive apron of fortifications designed to protect Valletta and its two harbours from land, which included Cottonera Lines, Fort Ricasoli, the Floriana Crownworks and Faussebraye, as well as various other proposals for new works of fortification on the Isolotto, Dragut Point and Corradino heights.

Project stopped as knights ran out of money

Sadly, the project was not completed because, after 10 years of construction, the knights ran out of money, Dr Spiteri noted.

He is one of the four speakers at the free annual event, which kicked off on Thursday and will end on Sunday. The fair includes a book fair, guided tours, an art exhibition by Dr Spiteri and public lectures.

The first lecture was given on Thursday by Phil Magrath, curator emeritus of artillery at the Royal Armouries National Museum of Artillery, based at Fort Nelson, Portsmouth.

George Cini will speak on Strait Street, the road that never closed during World War II on Friday (today) at 6.30pm and, on Saturday, Dr Spiteri will give a lecture at 10.30am entitled ‘Baroque monumentality and the defence of the Grand Harbour: Grand Master Cotoner’s fortifications’.

Ian Ellis speaks on Sunday at the same time on military and civilian life in late 19th century Malta and beyond.

The fair will be open today from 2pm until 8pm and on Saturday and Sunday from 9am until 8pm.

The selection of books covers several topics, including military history, general history, maritime, aviation, World War I and World War II.

The aim of the fair is not just to promote the sale of books but also to serve as a platform for like-minded people with a keen interest in Maltese history, naval and military historical studies and heritage to meet, discuss and share ideas and knowledge.

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